R & R @ Ambleside

Posted by @ 7:00 am on Monday 20th February, 2012.

After Thursday's drag up the M6 there was an unpleasant surprise waiting for us at Ings - the Little Chef was boarded-up! It's a sad loss - they used to serve fine food there and the service was always excellent. Fortunately we already had our evening meal planned at the hostel. We pushed on to Ambleside, nipped into Gaynor's to buy Anna a new pair of boots and then eventually booked in and settled at Ambleside YHA.

We'd taken up the YHA's "Winter Family Magic" offer - a family-room for four including an evening "family feast" for just £29.95 per night... it sounded good but the YHA website was a bit vague about the terms of the offer so I had enquired as to how they would cope with one of our party being a veggie, they said it was no problem. Since I made the booking the website details have been changed - turns out that they expected all four of us to have the same meal from the "family feast" menu... no good when we all eat different foods. Chris was sent in to negotiate the terms of their surrender and eventually we all got a meal of sorts. Chris ended up with a full 12" pizza, the kids and I got mashed spuds and non-Cumberland sausage covered with onion gravy. None of us got any vegetables despite the website saying that there would be peas or seasonal veg. It was disappointing, only the attitudes of the staff saved the day. The upside was that the dorm was fine with a view out over the upper reaches of Windermere.

Sometime during the evening the clouds cleared and the skies were ablaze with stars and meteors. I went out to grab some pics but for some reason the camera's focus started playing up and all the images were rubbish. Never mind, just seeing such a glorious night sky was enough.

We slept well that night.

Us adults were up bright and early on Friday. Predictably, the kids weren't so bright or so early. Outside it was a calm daybreak so I nipped out with the camera for a while:


Towards Coniston.


Reflections in Windermere.


Towards Langdale.

Back inside the kids were still in bed but they soon got a shift on when I told them that breakfast was being served. Breakfast was good, it made up for the disappointment of the previous meal. After that, we hit the road and headed for Longsleddale. I figured that a couple of easy Wainwrights would be a reasonable test for my new arse.

We parked up at Sadgill and made ready for the steep pull up the side of Grey Crag:


The steep approach to Grey Crag. Mouseover for an indication of the route.

Towards the head of Longsleddale.

Much steepness.

We had a short break at the top of the gully - Ella needed some heel-blister treatment:


Ella and Chris get to the top of the gully.

Another view up Longsleddale.

From there we traversed to the right around the crags in search of the survey pillar. The temperature was dropping and it started to drizzle so we found a sheltered spot for a snack-break. I'd imagine that on a fine day the views from there would be quite good:

Taking a break.

A few minutes of walking brought us to the survey pillar. A quick look through the slot confirmed that the next pillar, on Tarn Crag, was in plain sight:

The survey pillar, with Grey Crag in the background.

Lined up on the distant Tarn Crag survey pillar.

From there it was a gentle stroll across easy ground to the intake fence. The weather closed in and this was our last view of the valley:

Looking back towards the survey pillar and Longsleddale.

After crossing the intake fence we had a short breather - Anna was feeling a tad sick, possibly due to the sight of the multi-coloured Ella wearing my Montane Lite-Speed H2O jacket:

Rainbow Girl.

A few minutes later we made the top of Grey Crag. All was clag and rain so I didn't take any pics. We left the top ASAP and made off on a bearing for Tarn Crag - this was the first time the girls had walked in clag, I think that it may have taught them the value of being competent with the old-fashioned compass/map combo when there are no visible references.

Crossing the marshy depression to Tarn Crag was fun - much bog, some huge peat-hags and a fair old tarn had to be negotiated before we reached the relative dryness of the snowy up-slope. The final slopes were confusing and finding the summit cairn took a while as visibility was quite poor:

Anna and Ella atop Tarn Crag

The survey pillar on Tarn Crag.

Anna was still feeling poorly so we hastened northwards to find the fence and followed it down the peat-hagged slope to the col and turned left at the gate, heading for Brownhowe Bottom. There was a fair bit of waterlogged ground to be crossed and it proved to be the undoing of the kids... over the years I've developed a "trying to run over the water like a Basilisk" technique which generally keeps my feet dry, the kids think it's hilarious and call it "Geckoing"... they try to emulate it but always fail - Anna managed to get her boots and socks fully-dunked and waterlogged in a mad dash across a deeper-than-expected puddle, and Ella managed to kick the back of her own leg while trying to run across water. There was much moaning. And a little sympathy.

Eventually we reached the firm ground of the Gatescarth Pass track. The clag meant that it wasn't very scenic but we did manage to get a fine view of the falls below Wrengill Quarry:

The falls below Wrengill Quarry.


From there it was a simple if long trudge past Buckbarrow Crag before heading off into the clag once again:

Buckbarrow Crag - the notice says that it's off-limits due to nesting ravens.

The car's down there... somewhere.

Needless to say, it rained constantly for the rest of the day. After reaching the car we dumped the soggy stuff in the boot and drove to Ambleside via Kendal, not wishing to risk the back-roads as we had on the way in.

Back at the hostel we jumped through the fiery hoop of the evening meal arrangement again... this time Chris had a veggie-option pre-arranged, we had the chicken and bacon hot-pot (which wasn't a hot-pot at all, it was a bowl of roast-spuds with three roasted chicken drumsticks and some bits of micro-bacon, all covered with the same onion-gravy that had bedecked the previous-night's sausages) and still we didn't get any vegetables!

Eventually we summoned enough courage to decant the car's contents into the drying-room. The rest of the evening was spent playing cards and comparing our physical conditions... in addition to the injuries and ailments of the kids, Chris was feeling a tad asthmatic. Surprisingly, I'd had a good day - no bad pain or other difficulties, just a bit of soreness and thrush in the antipodes.

Friday night was stormy but Saturday morning didn't live up to the forecast - it was supposed to start down at zero and drop to minus 6C throughout the day, with a heavy hit of snow. In reality the morning was quite warm and bright - here's the view from our window:

Room with a view.

A bit closer.

Daughters on the stage.

Over breakfast we'd decided that we'd have a bit of retail therapy in Ambleside before spending a few hours at The Lakes Aquarium at Lakeside near Newby Bridge. As the day went on the weather got better, not worse:

Windermere at Lakeside.

There's plenty of interest thereabouts...

The end of the line.




More carp.




Otters again.


Aventacludea fuctifino (a relative of the Piranha).


Big Cat.




It was as if I was looking in a mirror.


Yet another otter pic.


The most dangerous creature in the building...
holding a snake



Friday Summary:

Distance: 5.4 miles
Total ascent/descent: 1722 ft
Wainwright tops reached: Grey Crag (2093 ft), Tarn Crag (2176 ft). These were first-ascents for all of us.
Number of Wainwrights still to do: 7

Regarding gear taken for test-and-review... I took one item supplied by Adam Smith representing Go Outdoors - the Montane Lite-Speed H2O jacket. It was worn by Ella and, after her initial reluctance to don it because of the colour, she quite liked it. It kept her warm and dry without any condensation problems. She says that she'll prepare a review as soon as she's cleared her school-work.

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14 Responses to “R & R @ Ambleside”

  1. Longsleddale looks lovely - I'm just in delicate negotiations with the wife to have a week in the Lakes in the autumn and I'm really looking forward to it.

  2. Mark says:

    We're recently back from a 'family feast' YHA trip - it sounds like we did a bit better with the food than you did - we got peas with our sausages and mash, but we're also warned that we might like to add a side dish of veg for a quid. It should have been made obvious on the website however that the offer meant everyone eats the same meal.
    Looks like a good trip - glad to hear your recent surgery didn't hold you up in the hills.

  3. alan.sloman says:

    Okay - apart from the wonderful trip and the photogenic kids: Just how DO you do that mouse-over arrow thing? Genius!

    I'm glad the arse is better. And his backside.

  4. BG! says:

    @Walks and Walking - Good luck with your negotiations, let me know if you need back-up 😀

  5. BG! says:

    @Mark - Peas should come as standard - the YHA offer website sample menu says "Cumberland sausage, mash, peas & onion gravy". Chris emailed the hostel and has been told that side-orders of veg were available for a whopping £1.95 a shot. Nobody told us that when we were there, it's of no use to us to find out four days later, and £1.95 for a side of peas is daylight robbery when they only cost a quid for 2kg at Mr. Cohen's Emporium.

    The current version of the offer web-page does now state "Choose one dish from this mouth-watering Family Feast menu for your family to share!" Our booking was made back in December in accordance with the previous version of the page which did not contain the same statement.

    It's no surprise that YHA Ambleside are no longer on the list of hostels providing this deal.

    Just read about your Elterwater adventures - looks like you had the weather that we'd hoped for.

  6. BG! says:

    @alan.sloman - About the mouseover thing - you need 2 versions of the pic - one unadulterated, the other with added arrows or whatever. Here's the HTML code that works in WordPress:

    No idea if it'll work on your blog.

  7. Andy Jones says:

    Looks like a great family weekend and good to see you "encouraging" your kids out. Just had a rather irritating episode with my youngest spoiling a perfectly good walk 🙁

    Good to hear the - ahem - rear area didn't spoil the day

  8. Mark says:

    Sounds like you got a raw deal - we got peas included and then carrots and broccoli for an extra pound. The second night we had the veg chilli. Both meals were filling and and OK - nothing fancy, but I thought a pretty good deal.
    The mouseover thing is really impressive - might have to contrive an opportunity to do something similar.
    Looks like the aquarium has branched out - last time we were there the emphasis was entirely on species found in British waters. Our kids loved it. (But it cost an arm and a leg).

  9. BG! says:

    Originally Posted By Andy Jones
    Just had a rather irritating episode with my youngest spoiling a perfectly good walk 🙁

    Sorry to hear that, Andy. We developed a tactic to make it easier when it comes to that sort of thing - in their "formative" fell-walking years we allowed them to take a friend which provided distraction and led to a certain amount of "competitive walking" with nobody wanting to be seen as a wuss.

  10. BG! says:

    Originally Posted By Mark
    Sounds like you got a raw deal - we got peas included and then carrots and broccoli for an extra pound.

    Thanks for letting us know that. I'm sure that Chris will let YHA Ambleside know all about how much better YHA Conwy do it.

    Originally Posted By Mark
    But it cost an arm and a leg.

    Did you flash your YHA membership card? We did and it got us a fair discount - £19.95 for three adults and one child.

  11. Interesting that 'mouseover' stunt! I noticed your comment about the Little Chef in Ings. It's not really surprising that it's shut, as the excellent Watermill Inn is nearby.

  12. BG! says:

    Originally Posted By Martin and Sue
    ... the Little Chef in Ings. It's not really surprising that it's shut, as the excellent Watermill Inn is nearby.

    Indeed, but for those looking upwards through the holes in their pockets a family meal at The Watermill is more of a luxury than one at a basic eating-house.

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